A time to change
There is a tinge of sadness with the passing of JBJ. And there will be a little ceremony in memory of him at the Hong Lim Park this evening. Among political observers, there is a big load of mixed feelings when they look closely at JBJ and the path that he travelled, battered and trampled, in the pursuit of a cause and to lead the people forward in a different way. These are noble and honourable goals which every able Singaporeans should aspire to. JBJ could have chosen a different path, in the pursuit of material wealth, and he could be very successful as a practising lawyer. Instead he ended up in the pathetic state he was in, as a politician on the losing side. How could our political system that is supposed to throw up leaders to lead the people be so cruel, vicious and unkind to political aspirants? They are not criminals or people who want to destroy the country. They stand up to provide an alternative to the people, to offer a different way forward. The people are fortunate to have these men offering them more alternative ways. The country can be richer and benefit from more political aspirants making themselves available to serve the people. Politics need not be a zero sum game, need not be an arena for gladiators to fight and kill or maim one another. It is the highest office of the land and the rules of the game must be that of noblemen and gentlemen. And participants, winners or losers, should remain honourable, highly regarded and well respected by the people, and least of all, remain as worthy opponents and colleagues, if not even friends. There were too many bad blood being spilled in the political arena over the years through a culture of robust demolition of political opponents. The aim is to maim and destroy at all cost. The losers must not be left standing. Such a vicious culture has no place in a developed society that we aspire to be. There are great models of political culture and conduct in the West for us to imitate and adopt. In America and Europe, you do not see the extent of helplessness in defeat in the losers of an election. Life goes on and winners and losers continue to enjoy their social and economic lives without any acrimony. It is time to change, to redefine the rules of engagement in politics, to be more gracious in speech and in actions, to embrace political opponents as worthy adversaries and also as peers who can join you with a mug of beer when the jostling is over. The sadness that is being felt now, this evening at Hong Lim Park, should be a turning point in our political culture. Let this be the last sad story in our political history and be a new beginning, that politics is an engaging ambition for good people to step forward to serve the country in grace and humility. Let the winners and losers all be happy people, giving due regard and respect for each other. And on the passing of an elder statesman, be an occasion to relive the good memories of the past and comradeship. We deserve a better political system and culture for the good of everyone.